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AAHCI News Room

University Funding Industry: A Contra Approach for Profitable Research

Tuesday, August 09, 2016 10:29 AM

Dr Palat Krishna Menon, MD PhD MBA CPHQ, Director Research and Director Thumbay Labs Gulf Medical University, Ajman, UAE

The Gulf Medical University (GMU) is a young, private medical university (founded in 1998) and is a part of the Thumbay Group. The Thumbay Group UAE is diversified with operations predominantly in education and healthcare. Its headquarters are in Ajman, United Arab Emirates. GMU’s founder is a third generation entrepreneur from India, Mr. Thumbay Moideen, whose vision is to transform GMU into a research based university by 2025. This transformation requires GMU to change from an undergraduate-centric (local brand) to graduate-centric research led university (a global brand). The group runs hospitals in the UAE at Ajman, Sharjah, Fujairah and Dubai and In India at Hyderabad (group hospitals)

In determining the future growth of a university, self-sustaining research is a critical success factor. It is estimated that research comprises more than 60 percent of the budget for research based universities. As GMU evolved from a teaching college, the research culture needed enhancement in order to be a part of the institution’s DNA. Because it is a young university, advanced facilities for higher level research needed to be created. GMU is also a private university with limited internal funds and competes for scarce research funding with other universities in the region, so any investment in research must take into consideration return on investment.

Strategies for enhancing GMU’s research performance were examined. They included the evolution of multi-disciplinary approaches and research collaboration with other universities with the perspective of prioritizing research efforts and translating research results into commercially viable products. Another important decision was to evolve funding pipelines and long-term budgeting for research so as to enable a long-term perspective.

In 2013, GMU made a decision to set up a Centre for Advanced Biomedical Research and Innovation (CABRI) within the university to help its transition to a research based university. The Centre was strategically designed to carry out research in the areas of diabetes, hemoglobinopathy, genetic disorders, inborn errors of metabolism, molecular diagnostics, allergic disorders, and tumor diagnosis, while at the same time providing commercial referral services to group hospitals and community based clinics and hospitals.

It soon acquired accreditation from the College of American Pathologists, and now serves as a center of excellence for group hospital laboratories. The post graduate students gained tremendously from the Centre as they had access to a working accredited lab, patient samples, and the latest in instruments and technology under one roof. CABRI helps and guides student research projects, faculty research projects, funded research, and contracted research from pharma industry. It provides site management to pharma industry in the group hospitals, and these activities have helped implement industry requirements for clinical research and thus enhance good clinical practice through the group hospitals. CABRI turned financially viable within two years of operation.

We are now exploring the fields of big data analysis, genome editing, stem cell banking, and 3D printing as a part of the new innovation center being created to spur research on a similar self-sustaining service model. We are also planning a veterinary facility to cater to student teaching and animal studies and research requirements.

If you are interested in learning more about GMU’s efforts to become a global graduate-centric research university, please contact Dr. Menon.